Conan Doyle’s immortal creations Holmes and Watson battle enigmatic forces of darkness in this smartly conceived collection of 18 new tales of intrigue, detection, and horror.
Each story proceeds from the premise that the dauntless duo are engaged to solve crimes whose perpetrators are eerily reminiscent of phenomena described in H.P. Lovecraft’s grisly Ctulhu Mythos stories. The manual of black arts studied by such creatures is the dreaded Necronomicon, conveniently described (in editor Reaves’s “The Adventure of the Arab’s Manuscript”) as “a compendium of ancient lore and forbidden knowledge concerning various pre-Adamite beings and creations, some of extraterrestrial origin, who once ruled the earth and who anticipate doing so again”). Several stories do too little with the core idea of overreaching antiquaries who unwisely summon slumbering supernatural entities. But there are several noteworthy exceptions. The volume is neatly bracketed by ever-dependable Neil Gaiman’s witty imagining of Holmes’s first encounter with his archenemy Professor Moriarty (“A Study in Emerald”) and Simon Clark’s “Nightmare in Wax,” in which Moriarty gains possession of the Necronomicon, with amusingly ghastly and surprising consequences. The best of the remainder: a delicious battle of wits between Holmes and a Balinese beauty who pits herself against a man-eating demon (Steve Perry’s “The Case of the Wavy Black Dagger”); the combined efforts of Holmes and his sedentary, brilliant sibling Mycroft to rescue a sea captain cursed by an exotic stone carving (Brian Stableford’s “Art in the Blood”); John P. Vourlis’s nicely plotted tale of an entire village overcome by an unnatural sleeplessness (“A Case of Insomnia”); and F. Gwynplaine McIntyre’s stunning “The Adventure of Exham Priory,” an ingenious reworking of the familiar incident of Holmes’s misadventure at the Reichenbach Falls. Other notable contributions are by genre veterans Barbara Hambly and Tim Lebbon and less familiar authors Steven Elliott-Altman and James Lowder.
A few clunkers aside: a very entertaining volume.